On Concussions, Ivy League Changes, Massachusetts Does Not

For all their rich gridiron history, you don’t really think of the Ivy League schools as leading lights when it comes to football these days (with apologies to Ryan Fitzpatrick). On Wednesday, though, the Ancient Eight took a groundbreaking step in concussion prevention and head safety: from now on, Ivy League teams will only be allowed to hold two full-contact practices per week. That’s three less than the NCAA currently allows. The idea is to cut down not just on the number of concussions players suffer, but also on the number of sub-concussive hits that can add up to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the condition that causes so much of the trauma we’ve been hearing about in the news lately (the Ivy League recently had its own devastating experience with this).

“I don’t think it’ll have any effect on the level of play,” Harvard defensive back Matthew Hanson told the Crimson. “It’s just about being smart with how we play, so not leading with our helmets is going to be a big thing.”

Considering that high schools in Massachusetts have had a hard time effectively identifying and treating concussions (as I wrote about last year), I wondered if the state would ever consider imposing a similar limit on contact practices for high school teams.

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association spokesman Paul Wetzel told me that while nothing is imminent, the MIAA’s sports medicine committee would be watching to see if the Ivy League’s injury rate is affected. “There’s nothing under consideration at this time,” he said. “Certainly [the committee] would be open to discussing it. If we have a test lab taking place over in the Ivy League, they’ll follow it.”

Don’t expect any action any time soon, though. Even if the MIAA decided tomorrow it wanted to further limit the number of contact practices allowed (and there’s no indication that they do), because of the association’s rule-making process, the change would take at least two years to go into effect.

What, did you think we do anything quickly in Massachusetts?


Marquee photograph by Ragesoss/Flickr